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Canopy arch

Canopy arch

  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1365 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved oak

  • Museum number:

    W.21-1921

  • Gallery location:

    On display at the Museum of London

This woodwork formed part of a canopy arch above a choir-stall, a seat for a monk or priest in a medieval church . It probably came from the church of St Katherine-by-the-Tower, London, which was demolished in the 1820s. The royal hospital of St Katherine's-by-the-Tower was established under royal patronage in the twelfth century, but received a new charter in 1351, from Queen Philippa, who also provided funds to rebuild it. This fragment is a very rare survival from a set of mid-fourteenth century choir-stalls made directly under royal command. Similar non-royal stalls of the same date can still be seen at the cathedrals of Ely, Wells and Lincoln.

The St Katherine's choir-stalls were moved in 1826 to a new building designed by Ambrose Poynter, north of Cumberland Terrace, Regent's Park. This was damaged by bombing during the Second World War. Most of the surviving seating was subsequently moved to the foundation's present home at Butcher Row, Stepney (London). There were originally twenty-four stalls in all.

On loan to the Museum of London.

Physical description

Canopy Arch, from choir-stall, the curved sides decorated with leaf crockets, the interior having geometrical tracery with foliated cusps.

Place of Origin

London (made)

Date

ca. 1365 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Carved oak

Dimensions

Height: 108 cm, Width: 66 cm

Object history note

This fragment was formerly in the Royal Architectural Museum, Westminster (Architectural Museum 1877, 53, No. 841). It was sold to this Museum in 1921 along with many other carvings. It is probably from the destroyed church of St Katherine-by-the-Tower, London. The royal hospital of St Katherine's-by-the-Tower was established under royal patronage in the twelfth century. The building was started in 1340 by William Erldesby, the master of the hospital and the queen's treasurer. The institution received a new charter in 1351 from Queen Philippa by which instrument it was generously endowed. Rebuilding was slow, and it was not finished when the queen died in 1369. Druce maintained that it was probably not until about the time of King Edward's death in 1377 that the new choirstalls were eventually finished. The carving style of such of the furniture as survives, however, suggests a date in the mid 1360s for the manufacture of the stalls. Although only the seating remains, antiquarian records made before demolition in the early nineteenth century provide us with a reliable idea of the form of this furniture. It is the only witness of mid fourteenth century choir-stalls made under direct royal patronage. The two other fourteenth century sets of metropolitan choir-stalls, at St. Stephen's Chapel, Windsor, are no longer extant.

The St Katherine's Hospital choir-stalls were moved in 1826 to a new building designed by Ambrose Poynter north of Cumberland Terrace, Regent's Park. This was damaged by bombing during the Second World War. The seating of all the return and four of the lateral stalls was subsequently moved to the foundation's present home at Butcher Row, Stepney. There were originally twenty-four stalls in all.

Our knowledge of the superstructure is limited to various drawings, the earliest of 1780 by John Carter. From an examination of these there can be no doubt that the museum's fragment is reliably attributed. The canopies above the seats were flanked by buttresses. The apex of their arches broke through the line of the cornice above. Over the entrance to the choir were three large canopies of a more three-dimensional design.

The choir-stalls were of the conventional double-screen London type, as exemplified in the lower portion of the work at Ely Cathedral, or the furniture at Wells Cathedral of the late 1330s, except that the gable s were allowed to break free of the crowning cornice, It is unfortunate that there is such a big gap between these monuments and the St Katherine's Hospital furniture (although the Gloucester Cathedral choir-stalls , of about 1350, seem to have been designed by a metropolitan artist, they must have been executed by West Country craftsmen). The foliage in the earlier furniture is far too naturalistic to show much continuity with that at St Katherine's. On the other hand, if we look forward a few years to the Lincoln Cathedral choir-stalls, of about 1370, the vocabulary of architectural and sculptural motifs betray the near contemporaneity of both monuments. The tracery on the gables on the upper tabernacles at Lincoln is very similar to that on the gables at St Katherine's with the combination of tear-drop and quatrefoil motifs familiar from the choir-stalls at Gloucester Cathedral. Some of the foliage on the gable crockets at Lincoln is also very close to that at St Katherine's as exemplified on the museum's gable and the surviving misericords. Also the way that the leaf crockets emerge from grooved 'plates' of wood on the gable can be paralleled at Lincoln. The conceit of recessing the spaces between the leaves of the voluted 'trefoil' kind of foliage in the shape of a dagger is found in both places. This pattern occurs where the leaves are distinctly separated. The motif can be traced back to 'London' work of the 1320s where this leaf form is found on the museum's misericord from Lincoln Cathedral.

On long-term loan to the Museum of London since 2005.

Descriptive line

canopy arch, English 1400-1500

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Charles Tracy, English Medieval Furniture and Woodwork (London, The Victoria and Albert Museum, 1988), cat. no. 89
'Charles Tracy, English Medieval Furniture and Woodwork (London, 1988), cat. no. 89.
CANOPY ARCH, from choir-stall, the curved sides decorated with leaf crockets, the interior having geometrical tracery with foliated cusps (PL. 34).
Oak. About 1365
108 x 66 cm
Mus. No. W.21-1921
This fragment was formerly in the Royal Architectural Museum, Westminster (Catalogue of the Royal Architectural Museum, 1877.53, No.841). It is probably from the destroyed church of St Katherine-by-the-Tower, London (COL. PL.1).The royal hospital of St Katherine’s-by-the-Tower was established under royal patronage in the twelfth century (G.C. Druce, ‘The Carvings of the Stalls, St Katherine's Chapel, Regent’s Park’, L.A.M.A.S. Trans, N.S. 3, 1917, p.3-27).The building with which we are concerned was started in 1340 by William Erldesby, the master of the hospital and the queen's treasurer. The institution received a new charter in 1351 from Queen Philippa by which instrument it was generously endowed. Rebuilding was slow, and it was not finished when the queen died in 1369. Druce maintained that it was probably not until about the time of King Edward’s death in 1377 that the new choir-stalls were eventually finished (G.C. Druce, ‘The Carvings of the Stalls, St Katherine's Chapel, Regent’s Park’, L.A.M.A.S. Trans, N.S. 3, 1917, p.4). The carving style of such of the furniture as survives, however, suggests a date in the mid 1360s for the manufacture of the stalls. Although only the seating remains, antiquarian records made before demolition in the early nineteenth century provide us with a reliable idea of the form of this furniture. It is the only surviving witness of mid fourteenth-century choir-stalls made under direct royal patronage. The two other fourteenth-century sets of metropolitan choir-stalls, at St Stephen’s Chapel, Westminster and St George's Chapel, Windsor, are no longer extant. The St Katherine’s Hospital choir-stalls were moved in 1826 to a new building designed by Ambrose Poynter north of Cumberland Terrace, Regent’s Park. This was damaged by bombing during the Second World War. The seating of all the return and four of the lateral stalls was subsequently moved to the foundations present home at Butcher Row, Stepney. There were originally twenty-four stalls in all. Our knowledge of the superstructure is limited to various drawings, the earliest of 1780 by John Carter (See below for a list of some of the antiquarian records). From an examination of these there can be no doubt that the museums fragment is reliably attributed. The canopies above the seats were flanked by buttresses. The apex of their arches broke through the line of the cornice above. Over the entrance to the choir were three large canopies of a more three-dimensional design. The choir-stalls were of the conventional double-screen ‘London’ type, as exemplified in the lower portion of the work at Ely Cathedral, or the furniture at Wells Cathedral of the late 1330s, except that the gables were allowed to break free of the crowning cornice, It is unfortunate that there is such a big gap between these monuments and the St Katherine’s Hospital furniture (Although the Gloucester Cathedral choir-stalls. of about 1350, seem to have been designed by a metropolitan artist, they must have been executed by West Country craftsmen (Charles Tracy, English Gothic Choir-Stalls. 1200-1400, Woodbridge,1987.p.44-48) The foliage in the earlier furniture is far too naturalistic to show much continuity with that at St Katherine’s. On the other hand, if we look forward a few years to the Lincoln Cathedral choir-stalls, of about 1370, the vocabulary of architectural and sculptural motifs betray the near contemporaneity of both monuments. The tracery of the gables on the upper tabernacles at Lincoln is very similar to that on the gables at St Katherine’s with the combination of tear-drop and quatrefoil motifs familiar from the choir-stalls at Gloucester Cathedral. Some of the foliage on the gable crockets at Lincoln is also very close to that at St Katherine’s as exemplified on the museum's gable and the surviving misericords. Also the way that the leaf crockets emerge from grooved ‘plates’ of wood on the gable can be paralleled at Lincoln. The conceit of recessing the spaces between the leaves of the voluted ‘trefoil’ kind of foliage in the shape of a dagger is found in both places. This pattern occurs where the leaves are distinctly separated. The motif can be traced back to ‘London’ work of the 1320s (See W.104-1924 where this leaf form is found on the museums misericord from Lincoln Cathedral and Charles Tracy, English Gothic Choir-Stalls. 1200-1400, Woodbridge,1987. p.49-55).
Note. Some antiquarian drawings of the St Katherine’s choir-stalls:
JOHN CARTER. Watercolour. 1780 (Port of London Authority, COL. PL.1).
Sketched plans and details. 1775 (Guildhall Library.London).
Ink drawing of choir. 1780 (BL.Add.36402, £44).
ANONYMOUS. Record made prior to demolition. 1826 (Formerly at Salmesbury Hall, Blackburn. Lost).
B. FERREY. Engraved elevation, section and detail of a canopy. Pugin 1831, St Katherine’s Church, PL1.
J.W. ARCHER. Drawing of choir interior. 1834. (BL. Dept of Prints and Portfolio XV).
E.M. BARRY INK sketch of stall canopy.1849. (R.I.B.A.drawings coll. E.M. Barry Sketchbook).

Materials

Oak

Techniques

Carved

Subjects depicted

Tracery; Cusps; Crockets

Categories

Architectural fittings; Christianity; Woodwork; Interiors

Collection

Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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